Oaks and Apples - from Conversations with my Dad.

I had a rather mixed bag of ups and downs this weekend.  Definitely beyond the usual range I usually bounce between.

My life’s mantra is, “Balance in all things.“  It is so incredibly important to keep things smooth and level in rough seas.  I’ll be the first to tell you, it gets bloody hard when you’re ripped with devastating blows down and irrepressible boosts up.

Dad is playing bachelor this week, so it was one of those rare opportunities to have a real three generation men’s night together.  I invited him over and for the first time in ages I got to make dinner for him and my son.  We spoke for a long time together, and he brought some of the balance I’d been seeking this weekend.

He was talking on a completely different topic, but Dad mentioned hearing a lecture he heard lately that inspired him.

He spoke about two types of trees.  The first tree was an oak tree.  Oak has great strength, the wood is dense and hard, and is resistant to weathering.  It’s a fantastic wood to build with because it is so strong and durable.  Imagine a table made of oak, it could be built last year, it could easily be 100 years old.  Oak is beautiful, that beauty is passed along to the furniture built from it.

But as he spoke about the oak tree, we walked past my neighbour’s apples.  An apple tree isn’t as strong as an oak.  You can’t build a table that will last as long, or be as solid, or resist scratching from apple wood.  But you can get an apple from an apple tree, and you can’t get an apple from an oak.

An oak tree is not better than an apple tree, any more than an apple tree is better than an oak tree.  They simply are different, they have different properties and we, as people, have found different ways to use them.

In the same breath, why doesn’t Canada take a very fast runner and make her run the 100 metre dash AND a marathon and clean up in all the races at the Olympics?  Perhaps some day there will be an exceptional woman who has the ability to run short, high energy, bursting races and have the talent to carry her speed and stamina over the entire length of a marathon.  However I doubt that we’ll ever see such a feat.  Training for each event is specialized, it takes different skills from the runner.  A marathoner needs to sustain, a sprinter throws everything she’s got into a short distance.

All the athletes Canada sent to the Olympics are Olympians.  It’s not that sprinters are athletes and marathoners are sub-athletes, they are simply different people with different talents, different sports, and together they formed a team of inspiring and dedicated people with their own story lines to live out.  We can be proud of the people who went to compete, and win or lose they represented us well.  Collectively they are known as the Canadian Olympic Team, and they represent our best, a team we can all support.

Dad and I spent a great deal of time discussing future and past, goals achieved, accomplishments missed, futures uncharted.  One of those deeply philosophical conversations you need at the end of a tumultuous weekend when it is time to bring everything into perspective.  We covered a lot of ground today.

Now my Dad understands me better than I understand myself some days.  After touring the community garden together he described why I love Albert Park / Radisson Heights in my own words.  We spoke long and hard about my future, my doubts, my goals, my direction.  We discussed my career, my parenting, and most surprising to me, the Alberta Party.  Dad knows better than anyone why I am passionate about being part of a new approach to Alberta and its leadership.

“You can handle what you will be facing.  You have a goal in mind.  You learned the right lessons when you were young.  You learned the skills you will need to rely upon.  You got the anger.  You dealt with the anger.  You focused your anger.  You have your principles that will not be compromised.”

I know what the Alberta Party has inspired in myself and in others.  I understand the drain we have inflicted upon our flag bearers, but I also understand that they held the flags because they are our brightest and our strongest.

I cannot sleep, thinking of the good people who stepped forward, who stood for Alberta Party principles, who believe completely that we can Dream Bigger and find a new approach that is more fitting with Albertans at large.  I cannot stop thinking about the people with whom I have connected who had no faith in politics, no belief that anyone would listen to them and lost belief that every Albertan’s opinion is important and we all deserve a say in our collective future.  I cannot shake from my mind the thought that those that bore our flags are the very people that most deserve my gratitude and my dedication to continue their principles and ideals.

Yes, it is rough to have disappointments.  But we are not all sprinters.  The Alberta Party is an entire team of people.  We need our sprinters, but right now it is time to let the sprinters regain their wind.  It’s time for the marathoners to step forward, to organize, to strengthen, to create.  The Alberta Party was never about displacing the other parties, it has always been about creating a new way to make collective decisions, to be more attentive to the people we represent, to encourage every Albertan to feel free to say their opinion openly, to be heard, to find a way to find what binds us stronger than what tears us apart.

We must also recognize when we want an oak tree and when we want apples.  The Alberta Party was denied our electoral apples in the last election.  Right now we have time to strengthen our foundations, the time to build something long lasting and strong.  Now is the time for Big Listens, Big Ideas, Big Dreaming.  To prepare for when we next will show the province we have listened and we are prepared to champion Albertans’ concerns to the Legislature.

If you believe in the Alberta Party, now is the time to make your voice heard.  If you were intrigued by the Alberta Party but didn’t choose them, now is the time to test and challenge by attending a Big Listen.  If you wanted to vote for the Alberta Party but had no candidate, now is the time to form your Constituency Association and become prepared.

If you don’t believe anyone in government has ever listened to you, it is time to talk to me.  You deserve to be heard as I deserve to be heard, and at the very least we can listen to each other and choose the direction to strike out together.